Free Story: The Hitman Chronicles: Rumors of War – Chapter 6
Somewhere in Northern New Jersey
The Shadow Club
“He’s going to help us,” Nikira said as she closed the door of Amarante’s office.
“And he really is as good as you?” Amarante asked.
“To be honest, he might be better. One thing for sure, with him on our side the odds are much better. And he has an associate who might be useful too.” She sat down on the other side of Amarante’s desk. “Okay, so when are the fewest number of girls at the house?” she asked.
“Sunday mornings. People apparently feel that God watches their decadence more closely on Sundays. Also, that’s when all of Viktor’s men are there. They count the week’s proceeds and transport it to various locations for laundering.”
“How many girls are there on Sunday?”
“Can you get them out of the house without anyone noticing?”
“I can, but your window of opportunity will be very small, Nikira. Oftentimes Viktor’s men like to…sample the merchandise. That’s why three girls remain.”
“You get them out, Amarante. I’ll take care of the rest.”
Amarante sat at her desk, studying Nikira. Though she had seen with her own eyes how deadly Nikira could be (AUTHOR’s NOTE: From the short story American Gangsters), looking at her now made it hard to believe. Nikira appeared to be just a pretty little Japanese girl with an endearing smile that drew people to her – at least until they were close enough to see closely her cold black eyes – eyes that held no caring and compassion, that only came to life during the thrill of the kill.
“I have heard of you for a very long time among the Solntsevskaya,” Amarante said. “They said you are the most ruthless of killers. I’ve seen that, so I know it to be true. But they also say that you enjoy killing, that the money you receive is just your excuse to take a life.”
Nikira cocked her head to one side and gave her that warm smile. “Is there something you want to say to me Amarante?”
“Why are you helping me, Nikira, when you could have just fulfilled the contract? Or you could have refused it. Instead, you are going to risk your life to help me. Why?”
“Because you’re my friend, Amarante. I told you that.”
“Is it that simple?”
“Did you ever see a movie called Tombstone?” Nikira asked.
“It’s a Western. In the movie, Val Kilmer, whose character is sick and dying, is asked by an old cowboy why he’s risking his life to help Kurt Russell against a gang of outlaws. He says, ‘Because he’s my friend.’”
“So then it is about our friendship?”
“More than that,” Nikira said.
“I don’t understand.”
“The old cowboy says to Val Kilmer, ‘Hell, I got a lot of friends.’” Nikira leaned forward in her chair and placed her arms Amarante’s desk. “And Val Kilmer says, “I don’t.’”
Wrightstown, New Jersey
“So what’s the plan?” Simone asked.
“I don’t trust Nikira,” Duncan said. “I want the money first. Once I have the money and it’s put safely away, then I’ll listen to her plan…and hope she’s not crazy enough to give up a million bucks just to kill me.”
“You know I’m in on this, don’t you Uncle Duncan? I’m backing you up.”
“Any way I can convince you to stay out of it?”
Simone gave him a blank stare and blinked a couple of times, as if he’d just spoken some language from another planet.
Duncan sighed and decided not to argue the point. He thought that his niece could handle herself with Nikki as long as she didn’t get too close. “All right then. I’m going to call her now, then get a few hours sleep. If you’re tired you should rest, too. I want you alert tonight.”
He hit the redial on the prepaid cell phone. When Nikki answered he said, “You need to be in Long Branch this afternoon. Have the money with you. I’ll call you when I’m ready and tell you where to deliver it.”
Long Branch High School
Duncan parked his black Charger on the track surrounding the football field at the fifty yard line. With the headlights off the car was nearly invisible in the darkness.
He’d just called Nikira and gave her his location. If she was anywhere in the city she should be there within the half hour. Any longer than that might mean she was up to something. That would mean he was out and the deal was off before it got started.
Even though he knew it was good to go, he slipped his HK45 combat pistol out of its shoulder holster and checked the magazine. If things went wrong there’d be no hand-to-hand battle this time, not like that night in the Highlands. Tonight he was ready to make Nikki eat all ten rounds.
“How’re you doing?” he asked into his Bluetooth.
“I would say I’m cool,” Simone answered, “but it’s so cold out here that that wouldn’t be funny.”
“I hope you aren’t shivering so bad that your aim is off.”
“Okay Uncle Duncan, in all seriousness, I’m good. I’ve got you covered.”
“I’m not worried about that, Simone.” And he wasn’t. Simone was armed with a M107 .50 caliber long range sniper rifle equipped with a night vision scope. And she knew how to use it as well as anyone on the planet. From the time she was fifteen years old, his niece had taken to firearms the way most girls took to shoes.
“Incoming,” he heard her say.
“What is it?”
“Can’t be sure with its lights out, but it looks like a Mustang, coming from your eight o’clock.”
“Okay, stay ready.” Duncan took a deep breath and got out of the Charger.
The Mustang appeared from around the side of the school, moving slowly. He called Nikki on the prepaid cell phone.
By way of an answer Nikira said, “Okay, where do you want me?”
“On the other side of the field, directly across from me,” Duncan said.
He stood beside his car, watching as the Mustang neared the fifty yard line on the other side of the football field. “Turn it around and park so your door is on my side,” he instructed. “Then kill your engine.”
Duncan waited as Nikira maneuvered the Mustang around on the track and parked. He stepped onto the field, a few feet from his car, watching and listening. The car stopped, and he saw the driver’s side window slide down. Then he heard the engine go quiet.
He thought he could see her face – a spot of pale in the darkness of her vehicle, looking in his direction. He wondered who she was tonight – the sweet, passionate girl he knew in Japan, or the crazy out of her mind bitch he’d fought for his life against a couple of years ago?
Into the phone he said, “Take your clothes off – everything. Then get out of the car.”
“You’re kidding, right? It’s freezing out here.”
“Either do it or get out of here and stop wasting my time.”
“Oh, all right, baby. Geez, you’re so grumpy tonight.”
Duncan ignored Nikki’s attempt at humor. He watched the car and waited. He saw movement in the driver’s area of the Mustang, but from the distance and in the dark he couldn’t tell what she was doing. He pressed the phone to his chest to muffle the mouthpiece. “Be ready,” he said into his Bluetooth. “Anything looks weird, kill her and we’ll figure it out later.”
After a minute the Mustang’s driver’s side door opened. Nikira got out of the car, looking in his direction. As far as he could tell all she had on her person was the cell phone pressed to her ear. She shrugged at him as if to say, ‘Okay – now what?’
“Leave the phone in your car and come to me,” he instructed. “No sudden moves.”
Nikira tossed the phone into her car and started across the field in his direction. Her pale nudity looked ghostly in the darkness. He looked closely for any sign of a weapon, but didn’t see anything. He put his prepaid phone in his pocket and waited, fingering the trigger on his HK.
When she was about ten yards away he raised his weapon and pointed it at her chest, aiming for center mass. “Stop right there, Nikira.”
She stopped and smiled at him. “Hello Duncan. Long time no see. I’ve missed –”
“Turn around, slowly.”
Her smile broadened. “What, do you think I have a weapon taped to my back?”
“The fact that you even mention it makes it a possibility. Now turn the fuck around.”
“Yes baby,” she cooed. She turned around slowly, tossing her head and running her fingers through her waist-length hair and fanning it out as she moved. He knew her action was meant to be both seductive and to show him that she wasn’t hiding anything behind her or in her hair. He made himself ignore the curve of her hips and the swell of her bare ass and focused on her hair. When she was facing him again she said, “Was it good for you?”
“Quit fucking around.”
“Duncan, if you wanted to see me naked again you didn’t need to point a gun at me. All you had to do was ask. You know that, right?”
Duncan backed away from her to his car, keeping his eyes on her. He retrieved a blanket from the back seat and tossed it her way.
Nikira caught it and smiled at him. “I’d much rather get warmed up in your arms.”
He ignored her comment. It was harder to ignore the memories. He forced himself to keep his eyes on her face, and to be alert for any sudden moves. He wouldn’t put it past her to use the temptation of her body to make him drop his guard, and when he did, try to kill him. “We’re here to do business, that’s all. Cover yourself up.”
As she wrapped the blanket around her body her eyes dropped to his left hand. “Is that a wedding band?”
Duncan felt a twinge of dread.
She looked at him, her eyes unreadable in the darkness. “The pretty girl in the house in Bradley Beach?”
“Take my advice, Nikira: Keep her name out of your mouth.”
“That’s why you came, isn’t it? You’re not worried about protecting yourself, and you don’t care about the money. It’s her.”
There was an edge to her voice now that he didn’t like. “Be very careful Nikki. You can die right here, right now.”
“You’d shoot me without cause, Duncan? Oh, you mean the sniper up in the bleachers. Is that the girl from Bradley Beach?”
“I promise you she won’t miss. But I’ll blow you away first.”
“Ignoring his threat she said, “Good. I thought she could help us. I have a million for her, too.”
“She’s not part of the job,” he said.
In his earpiece Simone said, “Um…Uncle Duncan? Did she say she had a million for me?”
“So Duncan, you’d actually kill me if I threatened your wife?” Nikira teased.
“I’m telling you again Nikki, be careful.”
“All right. But Duncan, I’d really hoped things would be different tonight.”
“I was hoping we’d make this deal and then you’d take me to your house and fuck me the way you used to. You know, rough, like animals. I really miss that, Duncan. I miss you.”
In his earpiece he heard his niece say, “Damn! Oh, no you didn’t, Uncle D!”
“Both of you shut the fuck up. Is the money in your car?”
Nikira let out a big sigh. “Yes, it’s there – two cases in the trunk.”
Into his earpiece Duncan said, “If she moves one inch, kill her.” Then he walked toward the Mustang, giving Nikira a wide berth as he passed her.
He looked over his shoulder a few times as he walked, but Nikira didn’t move, didn’t even turn her head to look around. He thought about Maisha, and a part of him wished that Nikira would move, and that Simone would send a .50 caliber round blasting through her brain. Then he wouldn’t have to think about Maisha being safe, or about keeping himself alive to get back to her.
He used the ignition key to open the trunk. Two aluminum luggage cases lay inside. He looked across the field at Nikira again. She stood as still as a statue, still facing away from him. “How’re you doing?” he asked into his Bluetooth.
“Crosshairs dead center between her eyes,” Simone said. “She blinks, she’ll never open her eyes again.”
Duncan holstered his weapon and popped the latches on one of the cases. It was filled with banded stacks of one hundred dollar bills. He rifled through them to make sure all the stacks contained real money. They did. He closed the case, took it out of the trunk and checked the second container. It held similar contents.
He carried the cases back across the field. As he put them in his car Nikira asked, “Are we partners now?”
He turned back to her. “I’ll call you tomorrow and we can plan. You can leave now.”
She stared at him for a moment. He couldn’t read her expression. Then she took the blanket off and folded it and placed it on the ground at her feet. Duncan watched her, his muscles tense, ready for anything. She was over ten yards away, but he’d seen her cover such a distance in the blink of an eye.
Nikira turned and walked back toward her car. She took a few steps, and then stopped. “Duncan…”
Duncan whipped his HK out of its holster and leveled it between her shoulder blades. “What?” he asked, ready to fire if she tried something.
He couldn’t hear her, but saw her shoulders rise and fall in what looked like a heavy sigh.
“Never mind,” she said.
He watched as the ghost from his past moved away in the darkness.
West Long Branch, New Jersey
The Holiday Inn Express Hotel
She was flying, flying through blackness.
In her dream she never fell, never slammed into the river’s edge so hard that her breath ripped from her body and she thought she had to die. In her dream she never crawled broken, breathless and muddy through the sand, up the river bank. In her dream she didn’t hide for hours in the brush, until she could will her battered body to move. And in her dream, she didn’t swear on all that she knew that one day she would come back to kill him.
No, in her dream she didn’t fall; she always flew after he tossed her over the cliff’s edge. She flew through the rainy night as light as a bird. She flew back to him, back into his welcoming arms. In her dream they never ended as enemies.
She’d lain awake for hours after this dream, since long before daybreak, staring up at the ceiling, thinking about her dream – thinking about all her dreams.
Some said that dreams were signs from God. The less devout said that dreams were the subconscious speaking that which the conscious mind suppressed. She didn’t know if either were true. She didn’t know what she believed about God or destiny anymore. On the night she’d fought with Duncan she’d believed that if she killed him, then it was her purpose in life to be the monster she was. But if he’d won and killed her, then God would punish her eternally for her sins in the fires of Hell. But neither of them had died that night, though their intent was to kill. They were the best at killing, so what did that mean? What did her dreams mean?
She didn’t know what her dreams meant. She only knew that when she awakened from them, an aching emptiness filled her spirit. It hurt more than the ribs he’d broken in her body on that rainy night. Her loneliness was worse than the pain she’d suffered when her body crashed to earth after he threw her away.
He threw her away.
Nikira got up with the first of the morning light and did her stretches to loosen and strengthen her body. She worked one section at a time, beginning with her wrists and arms. Focusing her energy this way allowed for maximum effect on a specific muscle group.
She knew her body so much better now than she did as a nineteen year-old college student. And in the understanding of her own body, she had a better understanding of others. She would be so much better for him now than she had been as an inexperienced girl. They could do so many things for each other – give each other pleasures that others couldn’t provide, couldn’t even imagine.
She had the curtains open so she could see herself in the window’s reflection as she flexed. She imagined that he was here with her, and they were stretching their naked bodies together the way they used to do in Japan in preparation for the day’s training.
She wondered if she could get him to come back. He was married now, but he was still a man. That meant he could be tempted. The beast that lived in all men always needed to feed, and as such, was always tempted. The question was whether a man could control his personal beast.
Of all the men she’d ever known, he had the strongest will, the greatest self-control. He wouldn’t betray his marriage if he didn’t want to. If he truly loved his wife he wouldn’t give in to the beast, no matter how powerful the temptation.
Nikira balanced herself on the ball of her left foot and raised her right leg, up until she could place her ankle behind her head. She closed her eyes and focused on the burn as her muscles stretched, until the discomfort faded. That meant the muscles had learned.
The body was a tool – a tool that could be trained to deliver pain or pleasure. Right now she was in the mood for pleasure. She wanted to give it and receive it, and she wanted it from him.
Maybe one day, if he had no wife, she could have him again.
That was something to think about.
Maybe one day.
Maybe one day soon.
(To be continued…)